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Faces of Africa – Kerri’s Flight to Freedom

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Vultures are a critically important part of a healthy ecosystem and in balancing of nature. But the number of these high flying birds is declining. Hence there is the need to conserve them.

“It’s the most amazing thing being able to give a bird its life back,” says Kerri Wolter.

South African Kerri Wolter took up the vulture conservation as a life vocation.She grew up in Johannesburg South Africa a typical dog and horse loving girl with no love for birds.

Kerri Wolter hand raising the first vulture that drew her passion to vulture conservation.

Then one incidence was to be a changing point for her. She hand-raised a vulture and saw it grow into a fully healthy wild vulture. From that moment on, her life revolves around vultures. Her passion for animals led her to the Endangered Wildlife Trust organization in South Africa.

“About ten or twelve years ago, she came and asked for a job in conservation. I gave her an opportunity as Administrative Manager of vulture study group and reptile conservation. Within a short time she was learning and studying about vultures and became proficient in vulture conservation,” says Prof. Gerhard Verdoorn, member – Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Her love for vultures grew and after six years in the Trust, she left and founded Vulture Program called VulPro in Hartbeespoort Gauteng Province in South Africa. Vulpro is the only approved vulture conservation organization in South Africa. The organization is entirely dedicated into rehabilitating sick and injured vultures and after regaining their health they put them back into the wild.

A vulture spreading it’s beautiful wings and children looking.

Conservation work is a full-time job, hence Kerri is grateful to have the support of mind-like people with passion and love for birds like her fiancé Walter Neser, and Mlungele Nsikani from Zimbabwe who is passionate about conservation of vultures as he explains their great role.
“They clean the environment by eating animal carcasses,” tells Mlungele.

On a constant basis, Kerri and her team receive wounded vultures at the sanctuary. Some sick from human poisoning, farming chemicals and others with broken wings caused by electric wires. She gives them specialized medical care, nutrition and rehabilitation. With all the special care that she gives to these species of birds believed not to be as charismatic or cuddly birds, she explains that it’s almost impossible to get emotionally attached.

“You try not to get emotionally attached to the birds, but there are specific cases that you can’t help,” she says.

Kerri holding a vulture ready to release it to the wild. Her fiance Walter Neser looks on.

Kerri is always researching and pioneering new ways of collecting critical data to understand how to protect vultures in the future. One of the ways is by having a tracking device which she places on a captive bred bird in order to locate its whereabouts and rescue it when in danger and to also monitor its similarity to the wild birds.

Apart from giving medical attention to the vultures, Vulpro has other programs like educating children the importance of conserving vultures. They try to get children to the center once or twice a week during holidays and with a successful attendance of sixty kids, they get a chance to learn and interact with vultures. They educate children between the ages of seven to eighteen years the importance of vultures in the ecosystem and how to conserve them.

The program has since inception helped 268 vultures at the sanctuary hence showing its success.

Kerri with her fiance Walter paragliding looking at her beloved vultures up in the air.

Kerri has joined her beloved vultures in the air, paragliding to enjoy the flight to freedom, an opportunity given to her by her fiancé Walter as a reward for her hard work in conservation.

“It was the most incredible experience. You join them and you’re just another friend,” she says.

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